In September of 2019, I embarked on a road journey with our video production crew to the north-central region of Kenya to meet and film the Samburu people, the semi-nomadic pastoralists, a sub-tribe of the Maasai.
The complete experience, from the time we drove from Nairobi to our stay at a local lodge in Samburu, was unique in every way. The Samburu community is an experience of a lifetime in which one gets to witness the beauty of the African continent.
Our first location of filming was an all-female matriarch village in Samburu known as Umoja “unity” in Swahili. This is a village that began as a refuge for survivors of sexual violence. Men are not allowed in. My team arranged a meeting with the leader of these women to learn about their culture and traditions.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by singing and dancing from the women clad in traditional Samburu attire, brightly coloured tops, with necklaces made of strings of vividly coloured beads, of circular patterns around their necks.
The region in which the Samburu live is a dry, somewhat hot barren land. Though it was early morning, the air was already somehow scorching hot and burning on our skins as we started filming our main character, while she explained about their colourful traditional dressing and architecture of their houses.
Their huts are built using mud, hide, and with grass mats strung over poles. Samburu traditional dress consists of a striking red cloth wrapped around like a skirt. Both men and women wear jewelry. These coloured, multi-bead necklaces are a symbol of beauty and reflect the social status of the wearer.
Besides being responsible for maintaining their homes, Samburu women are also in charge of gathering food, water and tending to children.
One of the many scenes that we filmed during this production in Samburu, that l vividly recall and cherish the most was dancing. Dancing is an important part of their culture. The men dance in a circle and jump very high from a standing position and they usually do not use any instruments to accompany their singing and dancing.
Towards the end of our production, when we were filming in a certain location, we had an encounter with a leader of a certain Samburu clan.
He chased our crew from his village when we were halfway in filming a scene and refused us to record in his homestead, when initially he had agreed. The conflict stemmed from his discovery that we had paid another one of our main characters, who was also a member of his clan, a higher fee than him.
This forced us to an alternative film location to finish that particular scene.
Before my visit to the Samburu people, just like many, l only knew of their close relatives the Maasai.
But, this visit led me to gain a clear understanding of the Samburu people, and how they are fighting to preserve their culture. Modernization is setting in to disrupt their entire way of life, and whilst at the same time under pressure from authorities to settle into permanent villages.